Child Custody Orders Are Always Interlocutory Orders, Can be Altered Keeping in Mind Interest of Child: Patna HC
In a recent ruling, the Patna High Court set aside a custody order issued by the Family Court, Patna, and emphasized the paramount importance of the welfare of the child involved.
The judgment was delivered by Justice Sunil Dutta Mishra on May 15, 2023.
The case revolved around Ranjan Kumar Gupta, the petitioner, and Puja Devi, the respondent, who were married on December 15, 2010. The couple had a daughter together on February 7, 2012. However, due to ongoing disputes and a breakdown in their relationship, both parties agreed to seek a divorce through a joint petition under Section 13-B of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
Under their agreement, the petitioner was to pay Rs. 5 lakhs as a settlement to the respondent, and the minor girl would reside with the father. Following the payment of the agreed amount on March 5, 2016, the petitioner took custody of the child.
Disputes arose between the parties after the payment, leading the respondent to file a petition seeking custody of their minor daughter. The petitioner opposed the petition, alleging that the respondent had harassed him and his family members after receiving the payment. Matters escalated further when the respondent requested the withdrawal of her consent for mutual divorce, expressing a desire to reunite with her husband. In response, the petitioner sought the return of his entire payment.
On January 31, 2017, the Family Court, Patna, passed an order directing the respondent to refund the Rs. 5 lakhs to the petitioner and mandated the petitioner to transfer custody of the minor child to the respondent.
Dissatisfied with this decision, the petitioner approached the Patna High Court, arguing that the lower court had failed to consider the child’s welfare and that, as the child’s natural guardian, he had provided the necessary care, love, and affection.
The court acknowledged the significant time that had elapsed since the initial custody order was issued, noting the changed circumstances.
The court emphasized that “the welfare and best interests of the child must always take precedence over the rights of the parents involved.”